Friday, March 31, 2006

shadow of the giant

i first read orson scott card's ender's game when i was in fifth grade, i think, and i can't avoid saying that it had an enormous impact on me. it's one of those books that made me think a lot about things, and i'd read it again and again as i grew up, because i really liked it. more than a decade later than i first read ender's game, and about two decades after it was first published, card continues the series, or rather spin-off series (yes, i'm using tv terminology), with shadow of the giant. this actually came out early last year, but i hadn't had a chance to read it. usually with these books, i buy the hardcover for my friend (also an osc fan) from whom i then borrow it, but i wasn't able to do it this time, so i waited for the paperback. i was browsing the bookstore earlier this month, saw it and picked it up.

it was a pretty good book; i enjoyed reading it and couldn't stop reading it when i started as i often do with books from this series. it was a huge improvement over the last book, shadow puppets (something about that book just wasn't rite, but i read it too long ago to elaborate), but i still felt like some of the political maneuverings were contrived and revealed a certain lack of understanding card has of the world in which we live. of course, it doesn't really matter. the book is science-fiction and has no responsibility to adhere to the rules of our reality. it's not our future, and card can do with the world what he likes.

the small problem is that it's very clear that much of the story is inspired by what's been going on in our world recently. card throws in a lot of his thoughts on islam, on the american system of government, and on the nature and ambitions of the chinese and indian people. he doesn't get everything rite, tho.

in the first chapter, he talks about how the chinese people still believe in the mandate of heaven, the son of heaven and the imperial system. that's pretty ridiculous. sure, there is the sense that a government should be legitimate (which is what the mandate of heaven is: legitimacy), but the people of china are not clamoring for a return to a hereditary monarchy. in all the scenes with the chinese involved, they talk in this flowery language that sounds like the exotic fantasies of a clueless man. "most respectfully, sir, will you come to the office of the one called snow tiger?" first of all, no one talks like that in any language. when i read it, it makes me want to add a fu manchu accent to it to complete the caricature. and then, what kind of name is snow tiger for a despot? and then a military officer is named white lotus. if you're not going to translate english names, then why translate chinese names? it just sounds so stupid.

i'm in a less able position to comment about the other aspects, such as the indian people's belief in virlomi as a goddess who walks among her people, or the muslim world's ability or inability to get behind a figurehead caliph as they try to conquer the world, but much of it smells mostly of a wild imagination based on a few truths. but again, i'll say it's a work of fiction and so anything can happen, but because of the fact that he's using countries in our reality as models, i can't help but compare the two.

well, okay, that sounds really negative, but those are just minor beefs, really. they don't really get in the way of the story, which i liked a lot, and card writes the personal relationships in his books really well. it might not be completely realistic, but it does make you go "awww..."

the book doesn't really end. it kinda ties into the end of ender's game, but plot threads are left unresolved, so i can only assume card is going to write another. and probably another. and another. why stop a profitable enterprise, rite? well, i'll be eagerly anticipating the next book.

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